I’m not teaching this year, but several of my students, now in college, have contacted me for help on their writing.
Interesting Point #1: The students seeking my help are those who struggled the most last year in my class. It makes me happy that they view me as a resource.
Interesting Point #2: We do our work on Google Drive. In fact, the students are using the same accounts they received as high school freshmen.
Interesting Point #3: Issues with grammar and mechanics do not go away. Just because you’re enrolled in college doesn’t mean that your longstanding problems with run-on sentences magically disappear.
Out of those three points, I’ve thought the most about the last one. After looking at New Dorp High School’s success with teaching writing, which emphasizes a bottom-up approach of teaching writing as complex thinking, I began to wonder: Was my approach on conventions the wrong way to go?
In other words, is there something wrong with having students write, showing them an error, explaining why it’s wrong, giving them ways to correct it, and encouraging them to be more conscious in the future?
There must be. After all, most of my students with significant grammar and mechanics problems still struggle with them. And they’ve probably wrestled with these concerns since fourth grade.
The students can fix the problem if I identify it, and they can identify it if we read their essay together, but on their own, they have trouble proofreading and revising their own work. They don’t see by themselves what they can see with others.
That’s the hard part for me as a writing teacher. Writing — especially the grammar part — is such a mystery. Why do some students just automatically know how to construct complex sentences? (It’s not just the amount of reading they do.) And then why are others able to improve rapidly, while some grapple with the same grammar obstacle year after year?
A question for loyal Iserotope readers: Let’s say a student habitually writes run-on sentences in the following two ways: (1) sentence and sentence, (2) sentence, conjunction sentence. What ways would you approach this student so that she can, for once, feel confident that she “gets it” and can move on?